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‘Definitely a challenge’: Pharmacists busy with vaccinations added to daily workload

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WAUNAKEE (WKOW) -- Pharmacists across Wisconsin are busy giving out coronavirus vaccines, but at the same time they're trying to juggle the normal job of filling prescriptions and working with customers.

"It's definitely a challenge," said Heather Walker, pharmacy manager at Hometown Pharmacy in Waunakee.

It's a lot of work for Walker's small team, trying to handle a surge in phone calls from people looking to get the vaccine.

"If anybody wants to be on our [wait]list, they have to call us. So, our phone is going crazy with people wanting to be added and then some people are getting their vaccine somewhere else and then they're also calling to take us off the list, so it's kind of a constant, put me on take me off," she said.

Everyone on staff has stepped up to help with the logistics of administering the vaccine, since the pharmacy got its first doses in mid-March.

It's been a challenge not knowing how many doses they'll get from the state every week, sometimes none at all, but they've given around 150 to 200 doses so far. Right now, the pharmacy is using a federal allocation to set up vaccine clinics for Waunakee businesses.

Dennis White got his dose Wednesday through his employer after he recently became eligible but couldn't find an appointment right away.

"Ran up against this stone wall, I mean everybody, nobody had the vaccines, they weren't getting it in," he said. "When I got this opportunity I wanted to jump on it."

He's looking forward to a chance to see his family members again, which is a driving factor for many trying to find appointments right now.

"Every time they release a new group [of eligibility], we have a whole new group of calls that come in wondering how to get on the list," said Cross Plains Pharmacy owner Lisa Kostecki.

Kostecki's team is also working hard to get the vaccine out to customers. They're getting help from pharmacy student volunteers, too. But their waitlist is online, generating more signups. It's almost 2,000 people long.

"It's been very difficult and I applaud my staff for putting in extra hours and extra work that they've had to do to make this happen," she said.

The pharmacy has been getting about 60 doses a week for the past four weeks, so it may take a while to get through that list.

Both pharmacists are asking for patience as they work through the customers in need of a vaccine.

For Cross Plains Pharmacy, they ask people looking for a vaccine to sign up online and wait for a call, unless they don't have access to the internet.

"The calls can be overwhelming and that adds extra stress on our daily work as well," Kostecki said. "It makes it harder to make sure our patients are taken care of and are getting the rest of their prescriptions in a timely fashion."

At Hometown in Waunakee, the pharmacy team doesn't have an online sign up, so they say you should call, but try multiple lists at different places.

"If I have extra doses, I have a waitlist that we go to and and people get a surprise phone call," said Walker.

If you're looking for an appointment, state officials recommend checking out their vaccine provider map to find a vaccinator near you.